Such a Square

Marketers are still forging ahead with products in the lucrative children's food sector. ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., rolled out a kid's meal inspired by the cartoon Sponge Bob Square Pants under its Kid Cuisine brand. The meal includes character-shaped breaded chicken patties, green sour apple-flavored applesauce, corn, and yellow sponge cake with a red frosting packet. The box also has character cut outs on the back, and Sponge Bob and Patrick on the front.

The breading covering the patties contains guar gum, which helps to keep the patties moist and contributes to good product texture. Xanthan gum, a component of the frosting in the red packet is used for its viscosity-adding characteristics. — Company home page — Article on the use of hydrocolloids to assist with batter and breading adherence

Turning Japanese

Jumping onto the bowl bandwagon is Small Planet Foods' Cascadian Farm brand, Sedro-Woolley, Wash., Teriyaki Veggie and Chicken Bowl, made up of “rice, vegetables and seasoned dark meat chicken strips with Teriyaki sauce.” The package features a starburst with the words: “Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth Certified Organic,” and the company spends a good amount of space on the back of the package explaining why organic is better.

Another claim on the package is, “The Chicken in this Entrée is An Excellent Source of Protein,” to reassure the consumer that she did, indeed, pick a healthy product for her family. The entrée has 4g of fat and 240 calories, and features xanthan gum and carrageenan. The gums play a key role in thickening and stabilizing the teriyaki sauce, and xanthan gum, especially, adds elevated “cling” properties. Again, the role the gums play in allowing meat to bind water and to withstand the freeze/thaw cycle is key. Hydrocolloids, generally, offer products better heat shock resistance.

Dream a Little Dreamery

Many will agree that the Banana Split addition to Edy's Grand Ice Cream's, Oakland, Calif., Dreamery line is every bit as rich and tasty as the existing flavors. The guar gum used in the product helps to stabilize the ice cream, and protect it from forming crystals that are the result of continuous free/thaw cycles during the distribution cycle. Carrageenan is another hydrocolloid used to help give the ice cream the proper body and a gratifying, smooth mouthfeel.

What a Blast!

Ore Ida, Boise, Idaho, a subsidiary of the H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, Pa., introduced a new snack under its Hot Bites Blasts brand. The bite-sized bagels are stuffed with three cheeses: mozzarella, cheddar and Monterey Jack, and come 14-15 per package. The products are made with 100% cheese and said to satisfy “your big snack craving.”

The methylcellulose featured in the product helps the cheeses bind water, as well as contributes to improved body and texture. Also, methylcellulose protects the product's cellular structure during the freeze/thaw process, and helps the dough retain its moisture and, thus, extend its shelf life. Hydrocolloids add viscosity to bakery products, resulting in better volume and texture.

Poured Over

Tapping into the notion that consumers enjoy participating in the preparation of their meals and snacks, ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., launched cheddar butter popcorn under its Orville Redenbacher's brand in Canada. The popcorn features pouches of cheddar butter that can be poured over the popcorn once it is popped. The ingredient label features xanthan gum in the product, which helps the butter, oils and other ingredients cling to the kernels, and then to the popcorn once it pops. Additionally, xanthan gum helps give the popcorn a good texture.

Sidebar: Investigating Hydrocolloids

Prepared Foods magazine has been in print, under various titles reflecting the changing nature of the food industry, for over a 100 years. A few readers may remember “Canner Packer” or “Food Development” magazine…those are predecessors of the current Prepared Foods.

More importantly, there are archived articles (back to 1994) online at that can be searched using a keyword search field on the home page. With our focus on food development and ingredient use, dozens to hundreds of articles can be found by typing in words such as “hydrocolloid,” “stabilizer,” xanthan,” “alginate” or their plural forms. Here are a few examples of past articles: - Discusses formulation advantages of mixing starches and gums - Carrageenan and locust bean gum formulating tips - Konjac flour formulation characteristics - Tips for formulating with hydrocolloids - Tactics to reduce baked goods staling including alginate use - New 2002 products and their use of modified starches - Article touches on the ability of proteins and gums to bind and provide adhesion - Discussion of hydrocolloid gum and emulsifier use in homogenized foods and beverages

Smoothing Things Over

Smoothies ought to live up to their name and provide a sensory experience that's, well…smooth. Pepsico's, Purchase, N.Y., Dole Smoothers Fruit Smoothie in Tropical Escape flavor is touted as being the “smoother fruit smoothie.” It contains a number of hydrocolloid-like ingredients such as larch fiber, pectin, xanthan gum, and gellan gum. Such components help suspend solids from the banana puree, add some fiber, and, of course, smooth and thicken the product.

Sidebar: Going Global

In Japan, Coca-Cola launched this hazelnut and mocha coffee drink, made of coffee beans that have the aroma of hazelnuts. The product, presented under the Georgia brand, features carrageenan, used for its ability to stabilize the product and produce a heavier body. This product is available in that country for a limited time, the autumn and winter of 2002.

Sponge cake is a perennial favorite and Hazlewood Bakery's Billy Boa brand product in the U.K. is presented covered in chocolate and decorated with a snake-shaped sugar paste topping. The product features both acacia and xanthan gums. Again, bakery products benefit from hydrocolloids in that they add viscosity to the batter and help the product retain moisture, extending shelf life.

The indulgent products sector in Australia has a new addition in the form of Unilever's Streets Ice Cream brand Magnum mini ice creams. The flavor names are an unabashed tribute to the Seven Deadly Sins. Each six-pack offers two bars each of Sloth (peanut butter), Gluttony (chocolate mudcake) and Greed (honeycomb). Vegetable gums are used to give the products more body and to ensure an appealing mouthfeel.

In South America, pasta also is a favorite food, and La Salteña brand spinach and potato gnocchis were launched this year in Argentina. The pasta is presented in a refrigerated plastic tray to give consumers an added perception of freshness. One should not forget that one of the largest classes of hydrocolloids used by food formulators come in the form of starches. Enzymes released in the digestive tract digest most of these easily; this includes those present in the mouth. Wheat and corn starches are the most often used, however, potato starches, used in this product, also are popular.